I Rode for Lansky II: Despite Ms. Cynthia Duncan of Miami, who is curiously sensitive about her grandfather Meyer Lansky -- "the Syndicate's Accountant," who ran Havana under Batista, who perfected the skim at the old Sands and Thunderbird hotels in Vegas when both were cash registers for the Chicago and Cleveland mobs, and who failed to warn his old pal Bugsy Siegel that a bullet had his name on it because of cost overruns at the Flamingo -- we choose to believe Johnny Bev, a confessed "crooked jockey," in his claims to having fixed races for Meyer at various local and national racetracks.
Ms. Duncan invokes a curious prudishness when it comes to her granddad's affairs. Meyer didn't go to Hialeah or Gulfstream or Calder, ergo he had nothing to do with horseracing. It was his second wife, Teddy, the manicurist, who dug the ponies! Right, sweetie, but meanwhile Johnny was a big winner before he went wrong, and was eventually banned from tracks here and in Canada. And he wasn't working for himself . . .
But after more than 20 years of being banned from Calder, Johnny was allowed back at the rail recently. Bev says he called up Calder's security chief and schmoozed him: "I says, I gotta friend who just got outta prison after 10 years for killing a judge. He gets in! I didn't kill nobody, but I feel like I been in the pen for 20 years!'
"I walk onto the track and it's unbelievable!" Johnny told Riptide. "When I was there it used to look like the Grapes of Wrath. Now it looks like Disneyland!"
Bev spent eight hours handicapping horses the day before he re-entered Calder, and then he went in with his friend Joe the Murderer and Linda, a mob princess. He says they won $26,410 before taxes. But then some shtark followed him home and robbed him of the fruit of his brains.
The next week Bev went back to the track and put $200 on a 25-1 shot: "You shoulda seen the jockey! He looked like a monkey fucking a football!"
Johnny decided to bet a California race at Calder, but got lost trying to find the right window. "It's a castle! I'm exhausted from running up and down."
He tore up his racing form. "Let's get outta here," he told Joe the Murderer. "These jockeys don't know how to ride. I can outride all of them with a pie in each hand."
Lately, Bev's been having chest pains and bronchitis, but sort of blames his doctors: "I got 21 and I can only recommend 3. I have a bill of a half-million dollars. They put you on a machine and it shakes you like a milkshake. The doctor says, It's going to help you.' It's gonna help him . . ."
Johnny, who's 74 and lives on Collins Ave. in mid-Beach, says he's thinking about moving to Ocala to start a horse farm. But he also plans to keep visiting the track: "Naturally, I'm goin' back. I don't believe in bad luck. It ain't going to keep me down!"
The Great American Disconnect: Since it's flu season again, various health-care outfits have been cooperating on the anti-flu front since late last month, but, unfortunately, with mixed results. Maxim Health Care, for example, was administering reasonably priced ($15) flu shots until Dec. 15 at all Publix supermarket outlets in Greater Miami. The problem was -- with a particularly virulent, naggy-type green-phlegm gllllecck-textured strain going around, that's making people dream they're lost in al Qaeda caves of the sinus -- flu medicine began to wane early.
At one point, at the Publix on Biscayne near 128th Street, about 600 sniffly (or potentially sniffly) souls lined up to get poked, and for some reason were in a hyper mood, like teenage girls waiting for 'N Sync tickets. Three nurses, unaware of how many doses they'd received but trying to create some order by distributing numbers, like in a deli, soon realized the vaccine they had was only going to fix about 300 people. The remaining 300, understandably upset for awhile, soon began demanding help, snaking around ominously, until the cops were called. There was some nasty violence, and two confirmed arrests, including one guy who was really mad and dropped his pants, aiming his buttocks at officers and refusing to budge until he got his shot. For the record, the charge was indecent exposure.
Bad news for Miami realtors: Golden Boy Will Smith (Fresh Prince, Bad Boys, Men in Black, etc.), who will star this month in Michael Mann's biggest-budget film yet, Ali (shot partly on the Beach), has just bought a house in South Africa. He and Mrs. Smith, Jada Pinkett, wore out their Lincoln Navigator and six or seven agents looking at Seventies-modern and postmodern homesteads from Cocoplum bayfronts to Indian Creek demi-manses, at prices that would have made Gianni Versace resurrect. In Johannesburg, where Ali was shot, costs were more DeGeneres (though some sources tell Riptide $$$ wasn't the whole story on why Fresh skipped out on the Magic City).
Anyway, Will says he plans to spend a whole year there with Jada, his two kids, and tutti frutti, "learning about our roots." You would have thought Miami -- with all its current economic tsuris -- might have gone to some trouble not to be so rootless.
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Miami Lakes is a funny place: Two weeks ago, models and Germans show up. This week, Osama himself. Well, in a manner of speaking. Melvyn Miller, who owns The Protective Group, a manufacturer of defensive Kevlar-type vests for police and military use, was horrified to learn bin Laden had been caught on video (released by the Pentagon), wearing a flak jacket that could have been "one of ours."
"I find it abhorrent that the man who is trying to kill our [boys] is using our products to protect himself," Miller said. On the other hand, Miller's no fool. He said he could "understand" that if a man has a $25 million price tag on his head, "I would want to obtain the best protective product possible, too."